It would be easy to blame Cactus Shadows' girls soccer loss in the state championship on the airlines.
But even the Falcons acknowledged that they were beaten on Saturday on two quality plays by a fundamentally sound Tucson Catalina Foothills squad, falling 2-0 in the Division II state title match at Campo Verde, the Falcons' first appearance in a girls soccer championship.
"There is nothing we can do about it," junior forward Kelli Reid said. "We tried our best and sometimes it's enough and it just wasn't our year this year."
Top-seeded Cactus Shadows (14-2) was without starting goalkeeper Cassie Miller, who has missed most of this state tournament while at a U.S.A. Soccer U17 national camp in Florida. She returned on Saturday, her flight scheduled to arrive in Phoenix just minutes before the 10:30 kickoff time, except the flight was delayed.
Sophomore Haley DiNota had several big saves in Miller's place, keeping the game scoreless through 40 minutes.
"We don't make any excuses," Cactus Shadows coach Jeff Vittorio said. "We play with who is here. We haven't made excuses all year. She's a fabulous goalkeeper but we had all the faith in the world in Haley so we just got beat by a better team today. It's that simple."
Both goals came in a nine-minute stretch early in the second half and Cactus Shadows struggled with Catalina Foothills' ball-control possession game it employed to help kill the clock after scoring.
"They capitalized on their chances and we didn't," Vittorio said. "They are not state champions three out of the last four years for nothing. They are a fabulous team, very disciplined. We gave it our all. It just wasn't enough."
No. 3 Catalina Foothills (14-2) won the last two 4A-I state titles and now has state titles in six of the last eight years. Cactus Shadows lost to Catalina Foothills in the 4A-I semifinals last season, the second year in a row the Falcons reached the penultimate stage.
"We played as hard as we could and it just wasn't enough today," Reid said. "We got unlucky with a couple of goals but all things considered we made it through a really hard year."
On Saturday, a little more than a minute into the second half, Catalina Foothills freshman Emily Parker beat the Falcon defense in the box and put it past DiNota for the first goal. Then, in the 51st minute, Jenna Glad got a header that just went over DiNota's head.
"We are proud of her, Haley put her best foot out there," Reid said. "Cassie couldn't be here so we had to improvise with Haley. She played her heart out."
The Falcon offense couldn't get any steam as it did in its 3-0 semifinal victory over Glendale Raymond Kellis.
Sabrina Majerczyk, who scored twice in Thursday's semifinal, had trouble getting things started for Alexa Yardley and Reid. Although Reid had some good chances early, the opportunities dwindled.
Before Saturday, the Falcons had not given up a goal in the state tournament, having outscored their opponents 10-0 in their first three playoff games.